This beautiful story is from my hot sauce supplier
We bought hot sauce from a man at the farmer’s market yesterday. He and his wife (who is from Peru) are on a quest to create a hot sauce that is as delicious as it is hot and I’m on a quest to consume as much as it as I can. A former enlisted Navy guy, he randomly told us a story about a time in Portugal which was chock full of Franciscan themes. I asked his permission to use it and promised to share his website as a way to thank him for the delightful story. (Click here to order their delicious hot sauce and support his small family business).
He and his friends were glad to hop off the submarine when it arrived in port in Portugal. After months at sea, I can only imagine what a relief it is to breathe fresh air, eat new food and talk to new people. A briefing on the ship had warned them about muggings and that it was unlikely that any mugger who claimed to have a gun would have one since they are very
expensive. With this helpful information, they darted out of the vessel to see what Portugal had to offer. That evening, a guy walked up to them and asked if they are Americans. They nodded yes and he, with grand gestures and a loud voice announced that he loved Americans. When they asked why, he cleverly answered, “Because they have money!” and then indicated that since he had a gun in his jacket pocket they really ought to hand over some of their money. Remembering their earlier training, they expressed doubts as to the veracity of his claim. He responded by acquiescing that he did not in fact have a gun but that he did have a hypodermic needle contaminated with a particularly nasty virus. This was not covered in their training on the submarine so they decided to make a deal with him. They asked if he’d like to take a different approach and perhaps do something to work for some money. He affirmed that he was up for this. Together, the crewcut, civilian clad young men who live under the sea struck a deal with the above-ground dwelling man that he would sing a traditional Portuguese song, a fado, in exchange for money. So, right there, on the street, he sang to them, they enjoyed themselves, they shared their money with him and afterwards, they shook hands and parted ways with smiles and well wishes.
This story could have come straight out of the life and times of St. Francis of Assisi, except for the part about living under the ocean for a six month stint since in his day it would only have been possible for about 30 seconds at a time. I imagine these young men as I imagine a younger version of my husband, also a former enlisted navy sailor, with cargo pants and a tshirt, happy to be in civilian clothes and out from under the watchful stare of his chiefs on the ship. I love that they diffused the situation and that they dealt with the stress and potential danger of it with creativity and came up with an agreement which created a beautiful moment out of nothing. To passers-by, a local guy was entertaining some tourists but something more powerful was happening in that moment when violence and the threat of robbery turned to singing, smiling and a wonderful story.
St. Francis of Assisi and Robbers
This story can be found in The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by Thomas of Celano, Chapter VII. St. Francis had his own encounter with robbers right after the very public mutual-disowning with his father in front of everybody in town, he set off to whatever was next for him (spoiler alert: he became a dishwasher at a monastery for a short time). The robbers attacked him and “savagely demanded who he was” to which he responded “I am the herald of the great King!” to which they responded by beating him and tossing him in a snowy ditch. Although they mocked him, Celano tells us that St. Francis, supine in a ditch, sang even louder out of his “joy” and “exhilaration”.
Julie and Robbers
Although I have had many, many things stolen over the years (2 bikes, wallet, etc.) and had thieves break down the door into my Lexington, NC office twice (sadly, they heavily damaged the office but only made off with one Indian rupee which I kept from my trip to Kolkata. I hope the robbers went to a pawn shop with it and left disappointed after finding out it is worth 1.5 cents), I have not had encounter like the ones described here, thank God. I have several questions for you to choose from as you think about the sailor-turned-hot-suace-chef guy’s story and the story of St. Francis:
Questions for You
1.Have you seen a terrible situation turn into something beautiful?
2.What was it like for the fado singer as he parted ways with the sailors?
3. Have you ever found yourself supine in a ditch (either real or metaphorical) yet filled with joy?
4. What about these stories surprised you?